Catholic Cemeteries: Remembering the Dead: How Truly Alive Am I Willing to...

Catholic Cemeteries: Remembering the Dead: How Truly Alive Am I Willing to Be?


By Rob Grant

November is a curious month…sort of like a closet that would first appear to only have one “important” thing in it (Thanksgiving), when you open up the door all the way, and turn on the light, you realize that, holiday-wise, it actually is the most power-packed month of the year.

We’ve got All Saints Day, and All Souls. Mid-month there’s Veteran’s Day, and the Great American Smokeout. Towards month’s end, we have Children’s Day, The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – King of the Universe, Thanksgiving and, finally, the beginning of Advent.

“Nice to know,” you may say–“But why are we talking about this in an essay about cemeteries?”

All Souls and All Saints are the most obvious “remembrance” days— whether by intention or instinct, we somehow know that as the days of autumn grow shorter, the earth lies fallow, and the year begins to draw to a close, we sense that something is ending, and THIS is the time to think about what’s really important.

Yes, as we remember our beloved, who have died, and the holy women and men who have shown us how to make of our years on this Earth lives that are not merely passed, but lives truly lived, we are reminded of how precious our time here is., All through this month less “churchy” celebrations also remind us–and challenge us–to be ever more conscious of what is truly important in our lives.

Veteran’s Day–We honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for freedom…and on Election Day, we ask ourselves “How can I honor those who have fought and died for my rights and best exercise those rights and freedom by helping shape the very political process they defended?

The Great American Smokeout? Religion? The Sanctity of Life? There’s a connection?

With 180,000 deaths a year directly caused by smoking, there is definitely a “pro-life” element to this day–and a striking reminder that a great way for us to honor the dead is to work toward education about the habits that bring death to the doorstep.
Children’s Day and Thanksgiving, very different in their notoriety and the attention given to them, both with the focus of “What is truly important in life?”

And no accident it is that, as November ends, the Church Calendar Year concludes with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, and then begins with Advent, the last weeks of the conventional Lunar Year, where we again are invited to focus on “what is truly essential in my life…”

So November, a time to ask oneself how I might best honor those who have died… and to ask as well, how truly alive am I willing to be?”

Rob Grant is a 30 year veteran of parish ministry in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Dioceses of Oakland and San Jose and has been a professor of Pastoral Ministry at the Dominican School of Theology, Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

For more information, contact Kathy Fanger at 650-428-3730 x508 or,

Consolation of Grief Before the Holidays
Holidays often accentuate our sadness and grief. Fr. Christopher Bennett shares scripture, personal stories, and peaceful music. This interactive workshop can offer hope and support to better navigate the holidays.

December 3, 7pm-9pm
St. Victor Parish – Library
3108 Sierra Road, San Jose